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By Lennard Zinn
Pablo Lastras escaped a 10-man breakaway group with four kilometers to go and held a solo advantage of a handful of seconds to win this 187km stage that crossed the Slovenian-Italian border seven times. Giovanni Lombardi won the sprint from Uros Murn and the rest of the nine pursuers.
The stage rolled east through hilly and beautiful forested country along the Austrian border north of Slovenia’s Triglavski national park and crossed into Italy before heading south up a large first-category climb of the Passo del Predil at 63km. At the top of the pass, it crossed back into Slovenia and continued south through a corner of the national park, following the Italian border, before crossing the border five more times on three circuits of a hilly 12km loop connecting Nova Gorica, Slovenia and Gorizia, Italy.
The pace was hard from the start, and there were a number of short-lived breakaway attempts, all of which contained Slovenian riders. Shortly after exiting the national park, the 10-rider break formed at km 82. In the break were Italians Lombardi and Alberto Elli of Telekom, Giuseppe Di Grande (Tacconi-Vini Caldirola), Fortunato Baliani (Selle Italia-Pacific), Antonio Varriale (Panaria-Fiordo) and Massimiliano Mori (Saeco), Spaniards Lastras (iBanesto.com), Alexis Rodriguez and Joaquim Lopez Torrella of Kelme-Costa Blanca and Slovenian Murn (Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini). The break worked smoothly together and gained over eight minutes on the pack in 30km.
On the first-category Vrhovlje climb at 142km, Baliani, Di Grande and Lastras crested 18 seconds clear of six of the other attackers, and Lombardi was concentrating hard to stay at 38 seconds. All 10 regrouped on the descent, and Frigo and the bunch passed the summit 7:50 back.
As they entered the Nova Gorica to begin their finishing circuits, the Fassa Bortolo-controlled group was still more than seven minutes back and closing. The group worked together for the first two laps, the one hiccup being Di Grande crashing while leading around a turn. He got grease all over his hands reinstalling his thrown chain and caught back up fairly rapidly, though with considerable effort.
When they hit the first hill of the final circuit, the attacks came fast, furiously and unsuccessfully from half of the riders. Finally, on the last hill with four kilometers to go, Lastras attacked past il Diablo furiously waving his pitchfork. None of the other riders except Elli, working for the speedy Lombardi, were willing to take up the chase. The Spaniard and the Italian held a 4000 meter head-to-head individual pursuit, with Elli staying consistently five seconds back with the other eight on his wheel.
“There was no way I was going to wait for the sprint, because Lombardi would win it easily,” said Lastras later, and none of the others were about to help Telekom get another stage win, either. Indeed, Lombardi had no trouble dusting the others in the last 200 meters, but the prize was already gone 10 seconds before to the stylish Spaniard.
Mapei spokesman Franco Ballerini confirmed that Stefano Garzelli is suffering from a sore throat, and the high heat was not helping. Mapei and Fassa Bortolo both expressed hope that the flat stage tomorrow to Montebelluna would be calm with the pacemaking handled by the teams of the sprinters.
84th GIRO D’ITALIA, Stage 11, Bled, Slovenia to Gorizia, May 30.
1. Pablo Lastras (Sp), iBanesto.com, 187km in 4:38:30 (40.208kph); 2. Giovanni Lombardi (I), Deutsche Telekom, at 0:10; 3. Uros Murn (Slo), Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini; 4. Massimiliano Mori (I), Saeco; 5. Alexis Rodriguez (Sp), Kelme-Costa Blanca; 6. Giuseppe Di Grande (I), Tacconi-Vini Caldirola; 7. Antonio Varriale (I), Panaria-Fiordo; 8. Fortunato Baliani (I), Selle Italia-Pacific; 9. Joaquim Lopez Torrella (Sp), Kelme-Costa Blanca, all s.t.; 10. Alberto Elli (I), Deutsche Telekom, at 0:14.
Other: 14. Frigo, at 5:14.
Overall:;1. Frigo, 2040km in 52:25:07 (38.909kph); 2. Azevedo, at 0:03: 3. Olano, at 0:14; 4. Simoni, at 0:15; 5. Belli, at 0:19; 6. Hruska, at 0:30; 7. Noé, at 0:44; 8. Figueras, at 0:45; 9. Osa, at 0:48; 10. Di Luca, at 0:48; 11. Camenzind, at 0:59; 12. Garzelli, at 0:59; 13. Chaucchioli, at 0:59; 14. Gotti, at 1:04; 15. Pantani, at 1:11; 23. Rebellin, at 1:47; 26. Gontchar, at 1:54; 34. Savoldelli, at 3:23; 62. Perez, at 21:25; 66. Ullrich, at 23:37; 127. Livingston, at 54:13.